Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Two From Tejas

One of the weird side effects if operating this blog is that people occasionally send me stuff in the mail. Whatever they send is usually completely awesome, so I end up passing that info on to all you nice folks. Here's two items I've gotten recently, both originating out of the Lone Star State.

Imagine if D&D starred hillbilly anthropomorphic swine. That's Hawgbilly! in a nutshell. Stephen Colbert recently noted that the only people left in America you can make fun of are the hillbillies. Transforming the stereotypical Appalachian provincals into furries adds enough distance that you can hoot n' holler without guilt. Whether that's a good thing I will leave as an exercise to the reader.

The mechanics of Hawgbilly! are straightforward, but nothing to write home about. You assign some dice to the pools Brawn, Pep, Purty, Lit and Smarts. When you do things you roll your pool and the Damn Pinkerton (that's the GM) rolls 3d6 against you. Combat is slightly more complicated, as with most role playing games I care about. Character classes include the Ornry Scrapper, Witch, Moonshiner, Yokel and Goomer Doctor. A lot of the fun in this game comes from the cheesy spells, wonk magic items and goofball monsters, all written in faux hill-speak.

For 32 digest sized pages, Hawgbilly is a hoot. Any bigger and the running joke would get tiresome, but as it is I dig it a lot. If I ran this puppy I'd probably start out with a quest to get the moonshine still back from a cave full of creepy-crawlies. You can get Hawgbilly! from Noble Knight or direct from author Clem Hoofer.

Verdict: Recommended for anyone who wants to yell "Tarnation!" or something like that while seated at their game table.

How big of an S. John Ross fanboy am I?  Get this: I immediately recognized his Dirty Headline font on the front cover.If you had asked me a couple of days ago I probably would've told you the hobby doesn't need another zombie apocalypse survival horror RPG. But I was wrong. The Dead is an awesome addition to the field. The mechanics are a roll dice pools for successes sort of affair, which I normally don't dig. But the rest of the game is so good I don't care. The task system whereby players narrate their successes may annoy some GMs, but that rule is easily ignored and the rest of the game holds together. Other slightly hippy-dippy mechanics involves getting the players involved in fleshing out the campaign map ("Over here is the gun shop my crazy survivalist uncle owns.") and getting bonus dice by defining relationships among the players (My PC and Bob's PC are beer buddies, so we get extra dice when trying to save each other. That sort of thing.). The simple rules for being scared and going psycho are just enough mechanical oomph for the horrors of zombie apocalypse without trumping player volition.

All in all, I'd rank The Dead right up there with Zombi or Dead Meat as a great rules-light approach to zombie horror action. And the production values are top notch. Seriously, designer Kreg Mosier managed to do something that many much bigger companies have totally choked on: he put his text in front of various gray graphical elements and I can still read the rules! Also, it's neat to see someone using MagCloud for their print publishing. The Dead proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that MagCloud is a viable alternative to Lulu for print-on-demand gamebooks.

Verdict: Recommended for anybody interested in the zombie horror genre.